To place current education reforms and mobility trends into context, we will first provide an overview of current socioeconomic developments in India and introduce some key facts about the country, before we outline mobility patterns and the education system.
India is a rapidly changing country in which inclusive, high-quality education is of utmost importance for its future prosperity. The country is currently in a youth bulge phase.
It has the largest youth population in the world—a veritable army of million young people under the age of Fully 28 percent of the population is less than 14 years of age, and with more than 30 babies being born every minute, population growth rates are expected to remain at around 1 percent for years. India is expected to overtake China as the largest country on earth by and grow to about 1. The UN projects that Delhi will become the largest city in the world with 37 million people by This demographic change could be a powerful engine of economic growth and development: If India manages to modernize and expand its education system, raise educational attainment levels, and provide skills to its youth, it could gain a significant competitive advantage over swiftly aging countries like China.
Large parts of Indian society are simultaneously growing richer—the number of Indians in middle-income brackets is expected to increase almost fold within just two decades, from 50 million people in to million people in Some analysts now predict that India will become the second-largest economy in the world by At the same time, India is still a developing country of massive scale and home to the largest number of poor people in the world next to Nigeria.
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India also has one of the highest mortality rates among children under the age of five worldwide, as well as one of the worst sanitation systems: million Indians did not use a toilet in According to the World Bank, India succeeded in bringing million people out of poverty between and , and extreme poverty continues to decline drastically.
If current trends continue, India will be in danger of disintegrating into parallel societies with economic realities of elites in economic centers like Mumbai or Bangalore looking exceedingly different from those of the impoverished masses in underdeveloped states like Uttar Pradesh or Bihar. In light of such problems, it remains very much an open question whether India can harness its youth dividend to achieve inclusive economic development, or if it will become overburdened by population growth.
In one stark example of the dire labor market situation in present-day India, 2. Educational attainment in present-day India is also not directly correlated to employment prospects—a fact that raises doubts about the quality and relevance of Indian education. Although estimates vary, there is little doubt that unemployment is high among university graduates—Indian authorities noted in that 60 percent of engineering graduates remain unemployed , while a study of 60, university graduates in different disciplines found that 47 percent of them were unemployable in any skilled occupation.
Such bottlenecks have caused a large-scale outflow of labor migrants and international students from India: The number of Indian students enrolled in degree programs abroad has grown almost fivefold since , while hundreds of thousands of labor migrants leave the country each year. Many of these migrants are low-skilled workers, but there is also a pronounced brain drain of skilled professionals— , Indian scientists and engineers lived in the U. The stakes for India in this situation are high.
If the country fails to create meaningful job opportunities for its swelling youth cohorts, population growth could quickly turn toxic, exacerbating uncontrolled urbanization, overcrowding, pollution, and shortages of vital resources like drinking water.
This lack of opportunity, in turn, could stir up political radicalization and militant religious extremism—legions of idle and frustrated youths are easy prey for populist politicians playing religious identity politics. Modern India has been shaped by centuries of European imperialism and colonialism, most notably the formal colonial rule by Great Britain, which governed almost all of present-day India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh during the 19th century.
Education in India
Perhaps the most destructive aspect of that rule was the British sowed religious divisions by defining communities based on religious identity and divided the Indian subcontinent into administrative units along religious lines.
Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan which then included present-day Bangladesh were eventually granted independence in as separate sovereign countries—an event that was marred by horrific sectarian violence and mutual genocidal mass killings between Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs.
An estimated , to two million people were killed; between 10 million and 20 million people fled and migrated between the newly created countries, or were forcefully displaced in one of the largest dislocations of people in modern history. This tragedy was perhaps the most defining moment for contemporary South Asia.
It antagonized Hindus and Muslims and placed India and Pakistan on a hostile footing ever since, resulting in three separate wars and a nuclear arms race between the two countries. The conflict over the disputed territory of Kashmir continues to be a constant source of tension and military confrontation today.
Of course, India remains a land of colossal proportions despite the partition. India borders Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan and features some of highest mountains on earth, the huge Thar Desert, 4, miles of coastline, and the famous and religiously important Ganges River.
It has 36 states and territories, the largest of which are Uttar Pradesh home to an estimated million people and Maharashtra with approximately million.
Student mobility trends in India are of great interest to university admissions personnel in the U.
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India is currently the second-largest sending country of international students worldwide after China, and outbound student flows are surging. The number of Indian international students enrolled in degree programs abroad doubled from , students in to , in , as per UNESCO.
Among these students, the U. The second and third most popular study destinations are Australia, where numbers recently surged to 46, degree-seeking students, and Canada, which saw Indian enrollments almost quadruple from 5, in to 19, in In the UK, Indian enrollments have tanked by 53 percent since , but the country is still the fourth-largest destination with 18, students in New Zealand, meanwhile, saw Indian enrollments explode by more than percent since and became the fifth most popular destination with 15, students in Notably, outbound mobility is not only growing, but also diversifying with Indian students increasingly branching out to countries beyond traditional English-speaking study destinations.
In Germany, the number of Indian students almost tripled to 9, within a decade and enrollments are growing briskly even in countries like Ukraine, which now hosts 4, students up from 1, in According to data provided by Project Atlas of the Institute of International Education IIE , there were 18, Indians studying in China as of a sharp increase from 10, students in Note that these numbers, like other data cited below, are not directly comparable to UNESCO data, since they rely on a different method for counting international students.
Notwithstanding the high number of Indian international students around the globe, India actually has a very low outbound student mobility ratio of only 0.
There is little question that a lack of access to high-quality education is a key driver of student mobility from India. Demand for education in the country is surging, yet unmet by supply—India will soon have the largest tertiary-age population in the world, but the tertiary gross enrollment rate GER stands at only Large and growing numbers of aspiring youth remain locked out of the higher education system.
As of now, outbound mobility from India is still inhibited by the limited financial resources available to most students. There is consequently a strong relationship between outbound student flows and macroeconomic conditions.
Between and , outbound students flows decreased drastically when India suffered a severe economic downturn and the Indian rupee depreciated by 44 percent against the U.
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Funding opportunities in the U. Against this backdrop, current economic developments could throttle mobility from India, particularly to the United States. The Indian rupee has depreciated 10 percent against the U.
Yet, while the number of people able to afford quality education is growing, top-notch learning opportunities are still in short supply and difficult to access in India. Many Indian companies prefer to hire graduates of foreign schools. WES surveys of Indian graduate students in the U. The admissions rate at IITs has been below 2 percent for years, while other prestigious institutions like the Christian Medical College, Vellore admitted a miniscule 0. Surveys of Indian students in China, where some 80 percent of Indian international undergraduate students are enrolled in medical programs, found that the likelihood of being admitted was the most important motivating factor for China-bound Indian students.
High unemployment and cutthroat labor market competition in India also cause many Indian international students to use education as a springboard for employment and immigration abroad.
Opportunities to work in the U. In sum, social conditions in India are favorable for a further expansion of outbound mobility; it is almost certain that increasing numbers of Indians will flock to universities in foreign countries in coming years.
While the tertiary enrollment rate in India is low, it is growing quickly—a key factor, since it usually increases the overall student population and with it the pool of potential international students.
Rising prosperity among an emergent urban middle class will simultaneously make it easier for more Indians to afford studying abroad. The number of Indian students in the U. However, it is highly unlikely that such growth rates can be sustained in the current political climate in the United States. Enrollments have already slipped—data on active student visas provided by the Department of Homeland Security DHS show that the total number of student visas in the F and M category held by Indian students dropped by 0.
This decline comes amid greater restrictions on H-1B work visas for highly skilled workers since Visa applicants now face greater scrutiny, processing times, and bureaucratic hurdles. The DHS has greater leeway in limiting visa durations, and current proposals call for the termination of visa extensions—a measure that could affect hundreds of thousands of Indian workers.
The government is also considering barring dependent spouses of H-1B holders that applied for green cards from working in the United States , the vast majority of them Indians. Computer programmers that hold associate degrees, meanwhile, are no longer eligible for visas.
Outbound Student Mobility
Employers now have to provide much more detailed documentation and may face increased site inspections. All of these measures have a chilling effect on employers—the number of new H-1B visa applications is declining , and some companies have begun to move jobs overseas.
Changes to OPT extensions for foreign graduates in STEM fields are also under consideration and OPT students already face greater restrictions on where they can work —a change that coincides with companies hiring fewer international students. These developments receive intense media coverage in India and will almost certainly affect the inflow of Indian students. According to Open Doors , A large majority, India has the highest share Notably, fully In other words, the most typical Indian student in the U.
These students are increasingly likely to seek study options in other countries as career pathways narrow in the United States. Student surveys have shown that a sizable number of international students considering the UK eventually chose another destination because of limited work opportunities —a situation that caused the UK to ease restrictions again in for select countries , excluding India. The reputation of the U. High profile hate crimes against Indian students and rising U.
Countries like Canada, Australia, and Germany are increasingly benefitting from such developments and have experienced an accelerating inflow of Indian students, signaling a growing shift to other study destinations.
In contrast to the U. In , the Canadian government also made it easier for international students to apply for Canadian citizenship after two years of permanent residence. Add to that a large variety of study options at top-quality universities, lower tuition fees than in the U.
Per government data, the number of Indian students in Canada exploded by percent over the past eight years, from 11, in to , in —a trend that resulted in India overtaking South Korea as the second-largest sending country of students after China.
Germany witnessed a similar surge, if on a smaller scale. The country is generally a good fit for Indian students because of its world-class engineering programs and—importantly—tuition-free education. Until recently, language barriers and limited post-study work opportunities kept Germany largely off the radar of Indian students. As a result, India in overtook Russia as the second-largest sending country of international students after China.
Indian enrollments have since grown by another 31 percent to 15, students , making it well possible that Germany will soon overtake the UK as the leading European destination of Indian students, particularly since the impending Brexit could lock the UK out of the EU labor market.
Primary Education in India: Progress and Challenges
In New Zealand, the rapid influx of Indian students in recent years was exceptional in that it was strongly driven by enrollments at smaller private providers rather than universities. Indian recruitment agents , some of them unscrupulous body merchants, were quick to capitalize on this development by channeling large numbers of Indian students to New Zealand—a development flanked by rising incidents of visa fraud , quality concerns, and reports of Indian students being exploited as cheap labor.
As a result, authorities recently made it more difficult for international students to obtain work permits and permanent residence. Visa regulations for foreign students were also tightened, with Indians experiencing the highest visa rejection rate after Bangladeshis.